Drone photography may be the new backyard baseball: a great activity for sunny days but dangerous to neighborhood windows.
This was at least true on Monday afternoon, September 11, for Falmouth resident Ronald J. Nasif, whose upstairs window was smashed after an Australian television film crew reportedly lost control of their unmanned aerial vehicle.
The two men operating the drone had supposedly been gathering video footage of the Falmouth shoreline before the incident, which drew them close to Mr. Nasif’s waterfront home at the corner of Shore Street and Surf Drive.
The event was a first for Mr. Nasif, who is a retired physician and has lived next to Surf Drive Beach for the last 23 years.
“I’ve seen them flying around here, but I’ve never had one hit my house,” he said Monday.
Mr. Nasif was sitting at his kitchen table eating lunch when he heard a crash around 3:15 PM. He went out into his expansive back yard to find a white DJI Phantom drone laying on his stone patio.
The drone tore through the screen on an upstairs window and shattered the glass pane, scattering shards of glass across the bedroom before falling into the back yard. Mr. Nasif said he found the battery pack for the drone laying on the window sill but received an electric shock when he tried to pick it up.
About 30 minutes later, the operators of the drone knocked on Mr. Nasif’s door.
The owner, who identified himself as Timothy Mills and appeared to be in his mid-20s, immediately offered to settle for the damages in cash. The two individuals were temporarily staying at the Falmouth Inn and were scheduled to travel back to Australia the following day.
According to Mr. Mills’s LinkedIn page, he is a television director and cinematographer from Sydney, Australia. He is listed as currently working at the international production company Beyond Action. Previously, he worked as a shooter and producer for FreemantleMedia, WTFN, “Australia’s Got Talent,” and Deluxe Entertainment Services Group, according to the page.
“He was very polite,” Mr. Nasif said. “A very nice fellow.”
However, Mr. Nasif refused to return the drone right away.
Mr. Mills offered to settle the debt for $500, but Mr. Nasif requested that they return after his window had been fixed and a final price could be determined. He took a $200 cash deposit from Mr. Mills instead, on the promise that Mr. Mills would pay the difference in exchange for his drone. The drone was a DJI Phantom 3 Professional quadcopter, which is sold by the maker on Amazon for about $935.
Mr. Nasif said the owner returned on Tuesday morning, September 12, and gave him an additional $300 in cash. The window itself cost $200 to fix, but Mr. Nasif said he still had to replace the screen and clean up the area.
When Mr. Nasif questioned why the pair had flown a drone so close to his house, Mr. Mills and his companion told Mr. Nasif that they were trying to capture images of Falmouth’s coast when they lost control of the vehicle. Mr. Nasif gathered that they were in the process of creating some sort of film.
Mr. Nasif called Falmouth police immediately following the incident to provide a statement. The drone owner later asked that police not become involved, but Mr. Nasif assured him it was just a civil matter.
“It’s an invasion of privacy, that’s for sure... I’m perplexed why it happened to hit a bedroom window,” Mr. Nasif said. “I think it was on accident, but maybe they were looking in my windows.”
Although he was suspicious of the incident, Mr. Nasif did not ultimately believe that anything nefarious had taken place, saying it was more likely the Australian visitors were telling the truth.